Ronan and the Endless Sea of Stars

"I knew there was something I needed to understand, and perhaps share, about my brief, intense, joyful, devastating parenting experience," writes Rick Louis in the author's note to Ronan and the Endless Sea of Stars. Louis's heartbreaking experience of crushing loss is poignantly, lovingly illustrated by Lara Antal, who introduces Ronan, "a little-boy-shaped hole in the universe," as a dark shadow lit with glittering stars.

"I never thought I would be a parent," Louis admits. But then he married Emily and Ronan arrived. Ronan "seemed like a pretty happy baby." His indiscriminate word of choice was "Ung-ee"; he enjoyed baths; and his favorite book was Fishy Tails. But developmental delays led to doctors and a fatal diagnosis of Tay-Sachs disease. "But this is not a story about grief," Louis promises. "It is just the story of a little boy who was only here for a short while and what he was like and what he meant to us."

Louis explicitly acknowledges Antal for "capturing [his] somewhat quirky vision... perfectly." Indeed, Antal's empathy is evident. While deftly capturing difficult emotions, Antal also inserts unexpected humor: Louis's laptop sports a pear (not an apple); Antal translates the history of Tay-Sachs into a parody in which a Jew, Irishman and French Canadian walk into a bar, and a suited baby Ronan interrupts his parents' discussion by literally lifting the panel and overlaying his opinion with irreverent jokes: "Even a temp like me knows... life is short!" Louis and Antal prove to be symbiotically paired, affirming a beloved presence despite a tragic absence. --Terry Hong, BookDragon

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